Queensborough students connect with Korean ‘comfort women’

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Students recounted firsthand accounts of surviving Korean comfort women during a recent ceremony at Queensborough Community College.Photo Courtesy of Queensborough Community College
Students recounted firsthand accounts of surviving Korean comfort women during a recent ceremony at Queensborough Community College.

Ok Sun Lee was kidnapped by Japanese soldiers at age 15.

She was raped on average 30 times a day.

She spoke so history would not repeat itself.

Korean “comfort women” recounted their tales of survival to a group of students at Queensborough Community College’s Kupferberg Holocaust Center. The survivors represent a small handful of the 200,000 young women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army in World War II, according to accounts.

“She was just a little girl,” said student Alexander Crombez. “When you’re face to face, hearing about completely horrible events, things we can’t imagine as being possible, it feels much more immediate. These are people who are grandparents.”

Crombez, 19, of Flushing, said he and eight others studied the history of World War II in East Asia before receiving a firsthand account of the brutalities from the comfort women through videoconference. Most of them are now in their 90s, living in South Korea, students said.

“That’s when it moved from an academic type setting to a more personal, emotional trip,” he said. “It’s hard not to imagine the terror she went through when she was a young child.”

Student Wei Wu Li, 22, said he interviewed Ilchool Kang. Soldiers in the comfort station, he said, cracked the back of her head open because she drank water without permission.

“That was a heartbreaking story,” Li said.

The group of scholars said it was their goal to ensure the tales are remembered.

“It is because these students have studied the atrocities committed against the women of Korea during World War II that they have emerged as spokespersons for social justice,” said Dr. Arthur Flug, executive director of the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center. “By doing so, they have guaranteed these women that they will not be forgotten.”

Councilmember Peter Koo said he is pushing for a Flushing street to be named in honor of the comfort women. State Senator Tony Avella hopes to soon announce a resolution memorializing them.

 

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